Cold Hands, Hot Blood | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

Cold Hands, Hot Blood

COLD HANDS, HOT BLOOD Dallas Releford Maureen Rutherford felt a chill sweep down her spine as she pulled her new silver Malibu into a parking space in front of a local convenience store in Cincinnati. Cold rain, unusual for the middle of September, forced the windshield wipers to work overtime. Turning off the engine, she got out of the car and held her hand in front of her face to shield it from the rain. Brushing her dark auburn hair from her brown eyes, she sloshed through puddles up to her ankles. Having difficulty seeing anything, she rushed toward the front door and right into the arms of a masked man holding a gun in her face. Startled, she gasped unable to move. Before the scream that was developing deep in her throat was allowed to escape—if she could have accomplished such a thing—the man grabbed her arm and jerked her inside while another hand closed over her mouth, preventing her from screaming. “Inside with the others,” a gruff voice commanded. “Get in the back room and you might live long enough to see daylight.” Maureen heard another man laugh and sensed that her captor wasn’t the only one in the store. She struggled as hands as cold as ice held her arms preventing her from escaping. While her heart beat so hard she thought it might break her ribs, tiny creatures with cold feet used her spine for a ladder running up and down it and she thought enormous, slick worms were trying to get out of her stomach. Maureen knew that her survival depended on her being strong, except her legs felt so weak she thought she might collapse right there as the two men dragged her through the store and toward the back room. A hundred thoughts scampered through her mind like rabbits invading a lettuce patch. None of them were encouraging. She knew that if they got her into that back room away from the windows and the open front door, her life would probably be snuffed out. How many of the store personnel had they killed? These men didn’t seem as if they left witnesses. Shoving her into a large storage room that had an office at the back end of it, they watched her as she backed up against a walk-in freezer until she realized she could go no further. Maureen glanced down at the floor near the office only a few feet away where four store employees and two customers had been tied up with strong rope. Obviously, the robbers had come prepared. They were gagged with pieces of white cloth. All of them had been shot. They were lying in pools of their own blood. To her right were stacks of boxes, stacked almost to the ceiling. On her left were the two men who seemed content to stare at her through dark stocking masks as if they were waiting for something to happen. In front of her was open space that ended at the office on the other side of the room. The bodies were on the floor in front of that office and she couldn’t take her eyes off them. No escape, she thought hopelessly. If she moved the two men would attack like two Dobermans. Knowing she was going to die, she tried to think of a way out, and couldn’t. Watching the two men who stood motionless like two statues, she wondered why they weren’t doing anything. Were they trying to terrify her even more than she already was? That seemed unlikely, she thought. Fear paralyzed her and she trembled. Then she heard a back door slam just as thunder roared in the distance. Footsteps were coming toward them from the other side of the room. The boxes to her right blocked her view. The footsteps came closer. A man emerged from between two rows of boxes. He wasn’t wearing a mask. “About time you got here,” one of the masked men said. “We got everything from the registers. Only the safe over there remains. Did you bring the tools, Everett?” “Sure I got the tools,” the man said. “Did you morons lock the damned front door?” One of the men threw up both hands in frustration. “David, didn’t you lock that door like I told you?” “I thought you locked it,” the other man said. “I’ll go get it and turn out the lights. No need to have other customers coming in here, is there?” “You should have thought about that earlier,” Everett told him. “Now get to it. Who have you got over there? Why is she still alive?” As the one they called David left the room closing the door behind him, Maureen felt cold fingers touching her neck as their eyes focused on her. Terror swept through her except she refused to succumb to it, to believe that she was really going to die. Studying the man they called Everett, she hoped she could find a weakness in him she could exploit, maybe play on his love of his mother or something. She saw nothing in his rough face to indicate that he was human. His head was large, his brown hair cut short and his brown eyes were set deep under thick, bushy eyebrows. A large nose and high cheeks gave him the appearance of a 1920s gangster. His mouth was as smile-free as a rattlesnake on a hot rock in Death Valley at midday. Everett obviously worked out or did something that gave him wide shoulders, a large chest and muscles that showed even through his dark suit. His face was as expressionless as a bronze statute in a forest fire. The air conditioning unit above her head blew her dark brown hair into her pale face and she brushed it aside just as she remembered that her purse was hanging from her shoulder. Maureen knew that if she was going to make a move, it had to be now while she only had two of them to deal with. Bighead moved close to the other one with the swelled, purple lower lip. She knew he hadn’t gotten that from his mother. Maybe they’ll kill each other, she thought and knew that was hardly likely. “Why haven’t you killed the bitch? You know we don’t leave witnesses,” Bighead said. Purple Lips grimaced and stepped back apparently afraid that Bighead might just bite his head off. Maureen reached into her purse and searched frantically. It was there. She knew it was. Bighead put his hand on Purple Lip’s collar and pushed him back against the wall. “Well, why the hell don’t you do it? I’ll start work on that safe. Take her out into the alley. I don’t want to hear the bitch scream.” Maureen pulled out a canister of mace her brother had given her and stepped forward while the men were arguing. Her brother was a cop. She wished he were here now. Bighead glanced back at her when he sensed movement behind him. Dropping his hands from Purple Lip’s collar, he turned just as she sprayed him in his face. Screaming, Bighead dropped to the floor and rolled around thrashing about as if someone had shoved a red-hot poker up where the sun doesn’t shine. Maureen didn’t have time to enjoy his pain. The other man was coming at her with hate in his eyes. As he lunged at her, Maureen kicked him in his shin and sprayed mace in his eyes. Before she had time to see what happened to him, she ran to the corner and opened a large gray panel on the wall, Flicking all the switches, she turned all the lights off. Considering all the noise, she knew it would only be seconds before the other man rushed into the room. In the darkness, she made her way back to the freezer, opened the door and rushed inside pulling the door shut behind her. A forty-degree temperature greeted her and she shivered. Knowing they would soon discover her hiding place, she searched in her purse until she found a small flashlight that she always carried with her. An idea had occurred to her while she was trying to figure a way out of the jam. So far, everything had worked, except now her success depended on perfect timing. Feeling urgency prodding her on, Maureen shoved as many frozen boxes up against the door as she could using the flashlight to guide her. She would freeze to death in a matter of hours and she knew it. If her plan didn’t work, they would probably block the door on the outside so she couldn’t get out or break into the freezer and kill her. She didn’t have much time to waste. The cold hands of death were all around her. She could feel them reaching out for her. Her plan included calling the fire department, and the police. Pulling her cell phone from her purse, she dialed 911. With a trembling voice she told them where she was and for them to hurry. With help on the way, Maureen talked to the dispatcher giving her a clear description of the robbers. Cold hands caressed her neck as she thought about all the things that had happened. She had managed to save her own life but had been unable to help the others. * * * Rain fell in torrents for several days after the incident at the convenience store. Maureen sat alone in her apartment on Kenwood Road attempting to sort out all the things that happened to her. The aftermath was almost as bad as meeting the three robbers. Explaining everything to the police in grueling detail had been depressing enough, she thought. Nonetheless, she had to identify the two men who had participated in the robbery. Bighead had managed to get away. Despite the fact he escaped, the police still insisted on placing a guard in front of her apartment for a few days. Bighead was considered a very dangerous killer. He had a record. Bighead had another profession. He had murdered twenty-four women in Wichita, Kansas in the eighties. Before they died, Bighead tortured them for hours. He clearly enjoyed torturing and killing women. Maureen felt lucky that she was still alive. The police knew him as Jake Everett King. His victims knew him as death. She was the only one who could identify him and place him at the scene of the murders. Except for his two accomplices. They weren’t talking. They obviously knew the consequences. Even though she didn’t think he would come back to Cincinnati with the entire state on alert for him, she still took precautions. Locking her doors, shopping in crowded shopping centers and staying at home at night was now part of her routine. The unmarked police car across the rain-drenched street had become an icon. Sitting in an easy chair watching the rain slither down the windowpanes in her living room, she tried to read a book by John Saul and found it to be a little too scary for her present situation. Growing drowsy just as the phone on her desk rang she jumped and wondered who could be calling her at nine o’clock on a Saturday morning. “Maureen, this is Aunt Elsie. How are you doing? Is it raining there?” She hadn’t talked to her aunt for several weeks. Her Aunt Elsie sounded a little nervous. Maureen wondered if something were wrong. “I’m fine,” she answered. “It’s coming down in torrents. I’m wondering if it will ever end. Is something wrong? You usually call me on Sunday nights.” “Well Maureen, I wish I had better news, but I don’t. I’m sorry to have to tell you this. Your mother had a stroke. She’s in the Circleville hospital.” Maureen felt tiny hands tickling the back of her neck and she was sure her hair was trying to stand up on her head. Her scalp was crawling with miniature ants. A tingling sensation worked its way down her spine. “Mom? When did this happen? Why, she was fine when I talked to her the other day.” “Happened last night. I just found out about it this morning. Jake, her husband called me. He wants you to come as quick as you can.” Maureen thought about the robbery, the escaped robber and her promise to the police that she would not go out of town until the criminal was caught. Damn them, she thought. They didn’t have any right to keep her locked up in her own city. She hadn’t done anything. “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” she promised. “It will probably be late tonight before I can get there with the rain and all that I have to do before I can leave.” “That’s fine,’ her aunt said. “We’ll be looking for you. Come to the hospital first, Maureen.” Maureen hung up the phone and walked to the window. The rain had brought her nothing but trouble. Maybe when it left, it would take her troubles with it. Picking up the telephone again, she called the police and told them she would be out of town for a few days. She had never seen it rain as hard as it was now. * * * Hoping to avoid heavy traffic on the interstate, Maureen took State Route 22 and headed northeast toward Circleville. Knowing it would take her longer to get there, she decided she still had made the right decision. A breakdown on the busy interstate in heavy rain could be disastrous. Traffic was light and she made good time despite rain so heavy the wipers couldn’t keep the windshield clear. Somewhere south of Wilmington, she stopped at a roadside store. Pulling into the parking lot, she found a spot close to the door. Remembering her previous experience, she looked around her carefully before getting out of the car and stepping into the drenching rain. Several truckers came out of the store and smiled at her. Feeling at ease, she sauntered into the store and found a few things she needed. With a hot cup of coffee in her hands, she stood at the counter waiting for the line to get shorter. Finally, she paid for the items and walked back out into the downpour. Dark gray clouds hung close to the ground pouring water on the earth as if they were trying to drown every living thing. The air was cool and she wished she had brought a sweater with her. With her mind focused on her mother, she got into the car and sat there for a long time sipping her hot coffee. As she watched it rain, wishing that it would stop and the sun would appear, she became aware of a curious odor. It smelled like blood. Believing the odor was just another engine smell, something akin to rotten eggs, she started up the car hoping it would disappear when she started driving. She dreaded driving into that rain. It was only six o’clock and already it was beginning to get dark. Before she reached Wilmington, she saw flashing lights through the heavy rain and slowed down before she reached the roadblock. A makeshift sign, one of the rented ones on wheels, said that a wreck had the road closed ahead. Another flashing sign said: DETOUR. An arrow pointed to the right and Maureen followed two other cars as they turned right onto a narrow paved road. The road was strange and unfamiliar to her. Figuring that as long as she followed the other cars, they would take her back to SR 22, she let her mind relax a little. One of the cars turned left on a graveled road and the other one turned into a driveway at a house. Maureen continued up the road wondering if she was going in the right direction. The smell of blood was stronger now and it irritated her nostrils. Something in the gasoline, she thought. That’s all it is. Darkness came and she concentrated on the road. Wondering if she had missed the SR 22 intersection, she soon became worried. After traveling for nearly an hour, she knew that something was wrong. She was lost at night out in the country. She hadn’t seen any lights from a house for a long time. As driving became more difficult Maureen thought about pulling to the side of the road and sleeping until daylight. She decided against it. Her aunt and uncle would be worried if she didn’t show up soon. When she was about ready to give up and pull over, she saw lights in the distance, plenty of them. Approaching the driveway to what looked like a small hospital that was located about half a mile from the road, she slowed down and stopped in front of the driveway. Excellent, she said to nobody in particular. She was sure they could tell her how to get back to 22. Except something was bothering her. She couldn’t quite figure out what it was. She felt that she was not alone for the first time during the trip. The stark realization struck her like a ton of rocks just as a sharp blade was placed on her throat. The edge was so sharp she could feel it piercing her skin. The smell of blood was so real that she wanted to scream, and could not. “You thought you were going to get away from me, didn’t you, Maureen?” The voice, almost a hideous growl that sounded familiar, came from the back seat and she wondered how Bighead had managed to get into the car with her without her realizing it. Had he wriggled into the back seat when she stopped at the convenience store? The perplexing question didn’t seem too important now. Worrying about it was futile since she had a bigger problem. He had a sharp knife on her throat. She was going to die. “How do you know my name?” “I have friends,” he snarled. She could feel his hot breath on her neck and knew that he was close to her. Pressing the knife against her throat, he laughed. “With you out of the way nobody is left alive to identify me.” Maureen could barely speak because she was afraid the sharp knife would slash her throat. The slightest movement on her part caused her more pain. A warm, sticky liquid trickled down her throat. Closing her eyes, she gripped the steering wheel and felt her body shudder. She knew that the slightest move on her part would end her life. “Please, don’t kill me. I’m not the only witness. The police know who you are. They’re looking for you and they’ll find you.” Her voice was nothing more than a frightened whisper. Her mind was an empty shell that afforded her little comfort that she would live. “Nonsense,” he said. “They still need you to connect me to that robbery. That doesn’t matter anyway, Maureen. You see, I’ve taking a liking to you. I think I’ll take you with me. Don’t you think that would be interesting?” “No,” she whispered barely able to move her lips. “My mother is sick. I have to get to her. Please let me go. I won’t tell anyone that you were even here.” “Promises,” he said. “I don’t believe a word of it. If you were free you would sing like a little sparrow. If you’re with me then you—” Before he could finish the sentence, Maureen felt the knife moving forward as her head hit the steering wheel with enough force to almost knock her out. Putting her hands to her face as bright lights flashed before her eyes, she glanced over and saw that Bighead was lying in the front seat with half of his body extending back between the bucket seats. His head had hit the dash hard enough to disable him. He wasn’t moving. The car, which she had left in drive—with her frozen foot on the brake pedal—was moving forward toward a ditch that she could clearly see through heavy rain and ground fog. Confused, terrified, she finally realized what had happened just as the car slammed through a wooden fence and came to rest in the front yard of the hospital. An unsuspecting motorist had come upon the vehicle sitting on the highway and hit it in the rear. The impact from the crash had thrown her forward, slammed Bighead into the front of the car and banged her head against the steering wheel. Dazed as she was, Maureen realized there wasn’t time to waste. Bighead might regain consciousness at any moment. She had to run as far away from him as she could. The lights of the hospital pulled her toward them like a moth to a flame. Reaching for her purse she discovered that the criminal was laying on top of it. She always kept it in the front seat so she could reach it easily. Now it was underneath a deadly killer. Rain drenched her as she stumbled from the car and staggered through soggy ground toward the driveway that led to the hospital. If she could just get to the front door, she could call the police, she kept telling herself wondering if the person in the battered car behind her own car had survived the crash. She would have to report that accident too. Maybe the people at the hospital could help the people in the wrecked car, she thought. Running toward the hospital Maureen was sure she could hear him behind her splashing through puddles of water as cold as her blood. Tempted to look back, to confront the bastard that had nearly killed her—twice—she kept running until she felt sharp pain in her lungs and she thought she could not take another step. Nearly exhausted, she reached the front lobby doors sure that Bighead was only a few feet behind her. Reaching frantically for the door, she pulled it open and stepped into the foyer. When she attempted to pull the inner door open, she was horrified to learn that it was locked. She was trapped. She couldn’t get into the building and Bighead would probably come charging through the door behind her at any moment with a very sharp knife in his grimy hands. Knowing she was defeated but not quite ready to give up without a fight, she turned around and slumped against the door behind her. Almost afraid to even look at the door, gaze beyond the double doors to the parking lot beyond it, she was surprised when she didn’t see him standing at the entrance. What or who had she heard chasing her? Was it only her imagination? Maureen knew that her survival depended on her ability to think and reason clearly. Bighead would not be expecting a “dame” to resist his horrifying onslaught, much less figure out a way to defeat him. Twice she had barely escaped death at his evil cold hands and twice she had succeeded. Trembling, her legs hardly able to support her, she shuddered when something caught her attention. A shadow moved in the distance illuminated by the overhead parking lot lights. It moved through sheets of rain like a phantom of the night or a hunchback. She couldn’t quite decide which and figured that it didn’t matter. Either way, she knew it was the murderer with the bushy eyebrows, evil eyes, big head and square jaw. Turning around, hoping to get into the building and safety before the killer arrived, she pulled on the door with all her might. Then Maureen saw something that she had not noticed before. Sitting in the lobby near a wall was a security guard. He was sleeping. Frantic, she pounded on the door with both fists. Screaming with all her might, she finally managed to arouse the guard. Rubbing his eyes, he came to the door and pushed it open. She stood face to face with an old man with a wrinkled face, deep blue eyes and a pleasant smile on his face. “I’m sorry,” he said standing aside so she could enter. “I must have dozed there for a moment. Can I help you? Are you here to visit one of the residents?” “What is this place? Where am I?” The old man stared at her with a daunting expression on his face. “Why Miss, you’re at the Spring Woods Village Nursing and Retirement Home. What can I do for you? Who were you looking for?” “The police,” she said. “I need for you to call the police. Someone, a murderer is chasing me and he isn’t far behind me. Please hurry and don’t let him in that door? He’ll kill us all.” “Now, settle down,” the old man cautioned her. “You’ve had a bad experience. You need to take it easy.” “Mister, if that killer gets into this building, we’ll all have a bad experience. Where is your telephone?” “On the desk,” he replied. Maureen ran to the desk and picked up the receiver noticing that it was an old ancient black phone with a round dial on it. Placing the receiver against her ears, shaky, she put her trembling finger in the hole and dialed 911. Then she realized with uncertainty overcoming her that she didn’t hear a dial tone. Holding he receiver away from her ear, she stared questioningly at the old man. “I could have told you that the phone has been out all day,” he said standing near the desk. “Something happened to the lines.” Nearly hysterical, she stared at him for a second before grabbing him by his arm. “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Charles,” he said. “My name is Charles. Don’t fret, I’ll take care of everything.” “We have to call the police. Don’t you have a cell phone? After all, you’re supposed to be a security guard, Charles.” The thought of using a cell phone only served to remind her that her own cell phone was in the car, in her purse. “Cell phones aren’t allowed in the home,” he said. “The residents aren’t allowed to use them because they interfere with hospital equipment.” “Wonderful,” she said sighing. “Damn. How are we going to call the police? How do you talk to doctors and things like that?” “When the phones are working, it’s easy,” he said just as someone pecked on the door. Glancing at the double glass doors, Charles looked back at Maureen and smiled. “Well, I do believe that our guest has finally arrived.” Maureen looked at the old man and wondered what he was talking about. Weren’t his eyes a deep blue before? Now she stared into the darkest eyes she had ever seen and wondered if she couldn’t see forever. It was like looking at the heavens through a telescope. His face wasn’t pallid and wrinkled anymore. His skin was taking on a pink texture that was almost red. Maureen dared to look away from the old man and glance at the door. Maureen was sure her heart stopped beating for a few seconds as she recognized Everett King staring back at her. With both hands on the glass, he peered through the glass door as if he would lunge right through it like a bird flying through a cloud. Charles started for the door walking without the slight limp she thought had hampered him only moments before. Her blood turned as cold as ice and something as big as a frog took up residence in her throat when she realized what was about to happen. The old man must be insane or stupid. He was going to open the door. Guest? What the hell was that all about? Was the killer a resident of the retirement home? Knowing she had to stop Charles from opening the door, she stepped forward and grabbed his arm. Charles turned toward her and she could now see fire in his eyes and a strange smile on his lips. This wasn’t the man she had seen a few minutes before. She was almost convinced of it even though she knew what the real problem was. She was imagining things. Charles hadn’t changed at all. His eyes or his face hadn’t changed. Fear, horror and anxiety were making her see and hear things that she knew weren’t real. The smell of blood was strong in the room, even stronger than the ammonia and other chemicals the housekeepers used to clean the facility. That was it. She was just imagining things except she knew she wasn’t imagining the killer that was standing at the door looking at her as if he might cut out her guts while she was still living. He was as real as the little creatures that were running up and down her back or the little beasts in her stomach that were having a party at the expense of her nerves. “Release me and let me do my job,” Charles told her with a distant look in those big black eyes. “Things aren’t always as they seem, Miss Rutherford. Didn’t you know that?” “Maybe,” she said. “Please don’t let him in. I don’t want to die. I have a mother and family that needs me.” “I know,” Charles said pulling away from her. “That’s why I have to do my job. Many mothers needed their daughters and thanks to that man out there, they’ll never have them. Not in this world anyway.” Stunned by his strange statement, his soft tone of voice that sounded as if it carried a warning and his casual treatment of the situation, she succumbed to her fears and let him go. Glancing around for a weapon or a place to run, she saw nothing. The lobby was enormous, almost as large as a house. The walls were dark marble, the floor polished dark stone and the only furniture the gigantic desk that had nothing on it except a black telephone, a notebook, a pen and an accountants journal. Everything was black and the only light came from a single bulb in the ceiling over the desk, except for a dim light in the foyer, which barely allowed her to recognize Bighead. Bighead was smiling now that he realized the guard was going to let him in. Maureen was frowning for the same reason. Charles reached for the door and just as he turned the door handle, Bighead shoved the door with all his strength sending Charles sailing onto the floor. Bighead smiled wickedly at Maureen and gave her a look that said, now you’re all mine. Walking slowly over to where Charles rubbed blood from his face with the back of his hand, Bighead leaned forward and placed his big hand on Charles collar. Jerking him to his feet, he placed the sharp knife on his throat. Before Maureen could turn her head, he slashed Charles’s throat. Blood gushed from the wound and she heard a gurgling sound that only made her heart beat faster, her blood run colder and her body tremble. I’m next, she thought still trying to think of a way to escape. The only door she could see was the one beyond where Bighead stood with Charles’s struggling body in one hand and a bloody knife in the other. He smiled at the old man enjoying his agony. How odd, she whispered to herself as she stared at blank walls beyond the desk. No escape and no way to avoid my fate. Dropping the lifeless body to the floor with a thump that forced a slight scream from Maureen’s throat, Bighead turned and stared at her. “You’ve caused me enough trouble,” he said. “I’m going to drink the blood from your cold heart and wear your ears around my neck. Those beautiful eyes and lips will decorate my mantel in a jar. Every time I look at them, I’ll remember you, Maureen.” “Stay away from me, you bastard,” she whimpered backing away from him until her back was against the black featureless wall. Bighead rubbed his face as if he were trying to remove ants that were trying to get into his open mouth. Moving slowly toward her, he held the bloody knife out in front of him. Maureen moved down the wall until she was standing in the corner of the room. There wasn’t any other place she could go. Death stood in front of her and this time, there wasn’t really anything she could do, except die a horrible death. Maureen tried to force a scream from her throat as Bighead put his hand on her hair and held her with one hand while he put the knife to her throat. She could feel the cold steel and wondered what dying was really like. Bighead was serious this time and she knew it. He wasn’t going to give her a chance to escape. After all, even a killer took a little pride in his work and she knew it. He was proud of the fact he had killed over twenty young women and she could see it in his insane eyes. The eyes that were now so close to her own that she thought she was looking into the eyes of the devil himself. “Let her go,” a soft voice said from behind them. “You have an appointment with the administrator. You shouldn’t keep him waiting. He really wouldn’t like that.” Maureen glanced over Bighead’s shoulder just as Bighead’s hand went limp allowing the knife to drop away from her throat. His hold on her loosened as he turned around to face a new threat, one that was more confusing and terrifying to him than a young woman who was too scared to resist him. Charles stood not more than ten feet behind him. Charles didn’t appear to be hurt at all. “Your killing days are over,” Charles said. “We’ve been expecting you.” His eyes were darker with a twinkle in them when he spoke and his skin was as red as a tomato in July. “What? Damn, man you should be dead? How is this possible?” “Many things are possible that is hard for us to understand. Actually, we had hoped you would come to us sooner. However the fact you are here now is good enough. You see, Mr. King, you killed all those helpless women, you killed me and you would have killed that young woman without any remorse at all. This was your final test. You have to be removed from society. Welcome to Purgatory, Mr. King.” “Purgatory? What is that? What are you talking about?” Bighead was clearly shaken and Maureen tried to make sense from what Charles was saying. “This is a way station—you might say—a retirement home for the most deadly murderers we can capture. People like you have to be removed from society before they can kill too many people. All too often, we fail to do our jobs properly for one reason or another and killers live longer than we would like, but in the end, we always get our man, or woman.” “You’re crazy,” Bighead said. “What kind of trick is this? How did your throat heal so quickly?” “Trickery? Really, Mr. King. You will be placed in a room and live with your own kind until the time comes for you to go to the other place. I think you know the place I’m talking about, do you not?” “I’m not stupid,” Bighead said. “Except I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m going to do the job right this time.” Bighead lunged at Charles. Charles didn’t move. Bighead’s body went right through Charles as if he were made of clouds. Landing on the floor on his face, his nose bloody, he turned around and looked at the old man with a puzzled look on his face. “Give up, Mr. King,” Charles said. “Your days of killing are over. Do you know what Hell is like, Mr. King? It’s all repetition. It’s repetition day and night for eternity. You’ll probably cut your own throat, among other things. It’s quite interesting and I’m sure you won’t enjoy it. After all, that’s the purpose of Hell, Mr. King.” Before King, Bighead, could respond his attention was drawn to a noise at the other end of the room. Trying to focus his eyes on a door that had appeared where none had been before, he grimaced when he saw two tall men with whips, chains and grim looks on their faces approach him. As they dragged him away, he was screaming for Maureen to help him, to tell them he really wasn’t going to hurt her and that he would never do anything wrong again. His cries and pleas faded away as the two figures pulled him into the door and into gray fog beyond the door. As they vanished, the door slowly disappeared. Maureen looked at Charles who was staring toward the wall. “What is going to happen to me? Why did you bring me here?” “You were supposed to be a victim,” he said calmly. “We managed to manipulate things a little. King was on his way here and you sort of got into the force field that was pulling him in our direction. Miss Rutherford, you may choose to stay with us tonight and observe what happens to your enemy or you may leave. The rain will end by morning and you must be gone before the sun rises. When the sun covers the land, this place will no longer exist.” “Do you mean that it only exists at a certain time?” Maureen didn’t have any difficulty making up her mind about leaving or staying. As she waited for him to answer her question, she slowly made her way toward the door. “It actually exists all the time waiting for more criminals. It’s getting crowded down there so we have to hold them somewhere until a place can be made for them. You’re quite welcome to stay for a while. You won’t be harmed. I can see though, that you have already made up your mind. Take care, Miss Rutherford. Please don’t tell anyone about us. After all, I don’t think we want to advertise about our services you know.” Maureen opened the door and walked out into the foyer. Her head was throbbing. Her stomach felt as if a thousand earthworms were trying to escape at one time and nausea was about to overcome her. All she wanted to do was to throw up and then run like hell. “Thanks for rescuing me,” she said holding the door open until he began to disappear. Turning around she walked out into the night and ran down the sidewalk to the driveway. When she reached the end of the road she stopped and wondered if she should look back. Curiosity got the best of her and when she looked in the direction of the retirement home. It was gone. The only thing there was one single light on a sign that said: FUTURE HOME OF THE SPRING WOOD RETIREMENT CENTER. Maureen knew she couldn’t get her car out of the field, nonetheless, she knew she would have to try. When she reached the road, she saw her car sitting on the side of the road just as it stopped raining. The car that rear-ended her was gone. Getting behind the wheel, she put her hands on it and squeezed until she thought her body might stop trembling. Confident that she had only been dreaming, the victim of some kind of crazy, insane hallucination, she started up the car and drove north. Somewhere up there was SR 22 and if she traveled that road far enough, she would soon be with her mother. She had a funny, eerie feeling that her mother would be all right and that she would never have to worry about Bighead ever again. The End
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